Community support sought for Connellsville Cedar Avenue fire victims
By Mark Hofmann
Published: Tuesday, February 19, 2013, 5:48 p.m.
Updated: Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Jerry Ritenour, his fiancee, Jenny O'Hanlon, and her two children lost everything in a fire on Monday night — including one of their beloved dogs.
But neighbors are coming to their aid.
The cause of the fire at 7:10 p.m. Monday at 410 E. Cedar Ave. in Connellsville is undetermined.
The family was shopping in Wal-Mart when they received a call from neighbor Shannon Kieta.
Kieta said she and her two children thought they heard fireworks going off at the Ritenour-O'Hanlon home.
Another neighbor started to bang on her door telling her to get out of the house. As she and her family exited, they saw their neighbor's home engulfed in flames.
“I saw flames and wires hitting the ground,” Kieta said.
New Haven Hose Fire Chief Bob Topper said responding crews did a good job in knocking down the fire within the first 15 minutes, but because of the home's old age, the structure sustained heavy heat and smoke damage.
A state police fire marshal is investigating.
Topper said first responders were on the scene until after 10 p.m.
In addition to the Ritenour-O'Hanlon home being destroyed, the Kieta home sustained heat damage.
As Kieta and her husband were walking around their home, they heard water flowing and noticed that the damaged home's basement was flooded.
In addition to their possessions, Ritenour and O'Hanlon lost one of their two dogs in the fire. Fayette EMS was able to resuscitate Blackjack by giving the dog mouth-to-mouth and chest compressions. Family pet Dexter did not survive.
O'Hanlon thanked the first responders for taking the time to save one of her dogs.
Blackjack suffered burns to his face and had trouble breathing, Kieta said, but the dog is doing better and the family is going to take him to a local veterinarian.
“They didn't have to worry about my dogs at all. They could have told me they already passed, but they didn't. They spent an extra hour doing what they did,” O'Hanlon told WPXI, the Daily Courier's news partner.
O'Hanlon said that despite the loss she's suffered, she's grateful she has her family and friends.
“This is the only thing that matters — the family and the friends that poured out love to us,” O'Hanlon said.
“They lost everything,” Kieta said.
Kieta is asking neighbors and friends to help the family. She has donated her daughter's toys to O'Hanlon's daughter, who celebrated her birthday on Valentine's Day.
Kieta said the daughter loves princess items and O'Hanlon's son loves Angry Birds items.
The family returned to the house fire with nothing but the clothes on their backs. They are staying with relatives.
If anyone would like to donate toys or clothing items to the family, they can contact Kieta at 724-626-1520 for more details of what the family needs and clothing sizes of the family.
“Any help would be much appreciated,” Kieta said.
Fire departments from New Haven Hose, Connellsville Township, South Connellsville and Morrell responded to the fire, along with Fayette EMS and the Connellsville Police Department.
Mark Hofmann is a staff writer with Trib Total Media.
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